Toyota South Africa’s sponsorship renewal will give the Free State Cheetahs’ Pro 14 and Currie Cup campaigns a huge boost. The renewal was announced in Sandton on Thursday morning.
The Cheetahs reached the quarter-finals of the European Pro14 competition in their maiden season in 2018, but they subsequently lost 13 senior players to other South African franchises and European clubs and had to rebuild a relatively young squad for the new season.
With six wins from 18 matches, the Free State side is currently sixth on the Conference A log and out of play-off contention.
Toyota has had an eight-year long relationship with the central franchise. Their recommitment to the Cheetahs will boost player development and help the Cheetahs to again be a force to be reckoned with in the Pro 14 and Currie Cup competitions.
Cheetahs Managing Director Harold Verster, says the sponsorship marks a new dawn for the rugby club.
“It’s a new dawn for Cheetah rugby in the sense that in the past two years, it was very tough on us to play pro rugby and Currie Cup rugby with an overlap; out of super rugby into pro rugby. It’s a new world for us. We’ve found our feet now; we’ve got this new, wonderful sponsorship from Toyota. There’s new excitement in the camp, we’ll keep our players and so on.”
The players have welcomed the financial injection and hope that promising and star players will remain in Bloemfontein.
Oupa Mohoje, Cheetahs captain, says that, without sponsorship, players cannot be paid.
“Without Toyota, or without a sponsorship, there’s no way players can get paid. So we’re really grateful for the sponsorship. Although we lost a few players last season, there’s also a perfect opportunity for us to bring in some new players, some new vibes and grow with them, so that in the next year or so we can play in the final of the Pro14.”
Cheetahs player, William Small-Smith, says that they lost a lot of players due to their contracts ending.
“I don’t think we lost guys because of the pro14 and I think we had a lot of guys’ contracts ending on the same day. If the contracts run from June to July, but the budget is from October to November as with other unions, I think it’s quite tough. I don’t think we’ll be in the same situation again. And regarding pro14, I think it’s a world class competition, you play against quality teams and we as a team, we want to win against any team we play against on any day, every place. I think we’re working towards that.”
The new sponsorship will run until 2022.
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